The quantity surveying practice Davis Langdon, formerly known as Farrow, Laing and Partners, is the South African arm of a leading international construction consultancy. For the greater part of the last one hundred years the practice has played a very significant role within the construction industry in Southern Africa.
Looking back into the history of the profession world-wide, one of the earliest references to quantity surveying, as we know it, was in the United Kingdom where records indicate that there was “the Edinburgh Mode (of measurement) of 1773 for Masons, Wrights, Slaters and Painters Work”. In South Africa the profession developed formally somewhat later and amongst the early pioneers was EB Farrow – an indication of his activities being a record that in October 1909 he prepared a schedule of quantities for the “New Railway Station in Pretoria”. There can be no doubt that EB Farrow worked closely with, and under the auspices of, various architectural practices operating in the Johannesburg and Pretoria areas during the years immediately preceding the First World War.
DJ Laing, born in Johannesburg in 1898 of Scottish parentage, had his articles registered with the Surveyors’ institute (later the RICS) in London as early as 1914 and subsequently served with the South African forces during the 1914/1918 war. Following his return from war service, Donald Laing set up his own quantity surveying practice in Johannesburg and during the early part of 1922 he linked up with EB Farrow to subsequently establish the firm Farrow and Laing and this date is recognised as the founding of the present day firm.
The practice thrived during the period leading up to the Second World War and a perusal of the archives indicates that major clients at that time included the Anglo American Corporation, Barclays Bank, Standard Bank and South African Railways. In 1940 the style of the practice changed to Farrow Laing and McKechnie, following the introduction of WA (Bill) McKechnie into the partnership.
Like many other firms, progress was halted for the duration of the 1939/1945 war, although the practice continued to operate in Johannesburg. Fourteen members of the firm served with the South African forces during the war, including future partners, JW Castleton, GR Durrant, AT Jones and NR Law.
The practice continued to prosper and expand during the nineteen fifties and sixties and extended its areas of influence throughout Southern Africa. Major commissions undertaken locally during this period included the Johannesburg Station, the Carlton Centre and the Johannesburg Civic Centre. Initially at this time DJ Laing remained the dominant figure succeeded as senior partner by NR Law and subsequently by DJ (Dem) Rouse.
Meantime a firm which was eventually known as Lane, Werry and Hattingh was founded in Bloemfontein in 1946. Thirty years later the two firms merged and, after a brief flirtation with regional names, the renamed Farrow, Laing and Partners moved successfully through one of the most turbulent periods in South African history. RW Lane took over the role of senior partner of the combined practice and was a significant figure in firmly establishing and advancing the provision of quantity surveying services in the mining and heavy engineering construction sectors. This specialised service remains a significant part of the total services provided by the practice to this day and in particular many commissions have been obtained within the gold, diamond, platinum and coal industries throughout Southern Africa.
During the nineteen nineties, a third major name change took place with Hatla Ntene, who joined the practice in 1981, following in the footsteps of Bill McKechnie in having his name added to those of EB Farrow and DJ Laing.
Later in this period, under the guidance of senior partner and incoming managing director, Johan Kemp, the operating style of the firm was changed from that of a partnership to a company and the practice consolidated its position as a leader in the field of construction cost consultancy in Southern Africa with major offices in many centres, including Cape Town, Durban, Johannesburg, Klerksdorp, Pretoria, Bloemfontein, George, Stellenbosch, Pietermaritzburg, Port Elizabeth, Port Shepstone, Richards Bay, Nelspruit and Vanderbijlpark.
In 1998 the practice entered into a formalised Verein agreement with Davis Langdon and Seah International, one of the foremost multi-disciplinary cost management and project control organisations in the world, having over 100 offices worldwide. The firm thus became part of a multi-national professional organisation, having full access to the extensive localised knowledge, wide experience and significant data bank of this group.
During 2001/2002, in line with many Davis Langdon operations throughout the world, a quality management system was introduced in all major offices, which system was subsequently accredited as being fully compliant with the current international EN ISO 9001:2008 standard. Under these changed circumstances, the name of the firm has moved from Davis Langdon Farrow Laing to the current title of Davis Langdon.
The firm has always been closely associated with the development of quantity surveying in South Africa and over the years has provided eight Presidents of what is known today as the Association of South African Quantity Surveyors (ASAQS). They were EB Farrow (1927), DJ Laing (1936, 1946), JW Castleton (1954), NR Law (1963), DJ Rouse (1977), RW Lane (1986) and Prof DG Brümmer (2006), and current MD, I Pillay (2009).
In present times the firm, whose roots go back to the commencement of the profession in South Africa, has under the leadership of current MD, Indresen Pillay, maintained and improved its status as a leader in the field of construction consultancy. The influence of the practice and its areas of operations are moving beyond Southern Africa to many parts of the African continent and beyond.